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How Does Second Harvest Fight Hunger During the Summer 

Hunger Free Summer: Ensuring No Child Goes Hungry When School’s Out 

Summer is a time of joy and relaxation for many children, but for some, it can also mean uncertainty about where their next meal will come from. When school cafeterias close for summer break, vulnerable kids lose access to the free and reduced breakfasts and lunches families depend on during the schoolyear. This issue has become even more pressing as child food insecurity rates continue to rise. Currently, 1 in 6 children face hunger, a 5.3% increase from last year. To combat this, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee has launched the Hunger Free Summer campaign, aimed at ensuring children have access to nutritious food even when school is out. 

Cottage Cove: More Than Just a Meal 

One of the crucial components of this campaign is our network of Summer Feeding Sites, like Cottage Cove, that provide not only food but also a supportive and enriching environment for children. 

Cottage Cove feels like a home away from home for the children it serves. Marsha, the program coordinator at Cottage Cove, emphasizes the importance of creating a nurturing and educational environment for the kids. 

“Our goal is to make the facility feel like a home. When the kids are more comfortable, we can form relationships, and they trust us,” says Marsha. 

Thanks to Second Harvest, Marsha knows she can keep her children fed, which means she can focus her energy on their overall development. The program offers educational support, exposure to the arts, and life skills training. Every week, the kids go on field trips, often related to the arts. Recently, they visited the Country Music Hall of Fame, an experience that broadened their horizons and inspired their creativity. 

Life Skills and Educational Support 

During the summer, Cottage Cove allows children to learn valuable life skills like baking and gardening. These activities are designed to help children develop practical skills they can use throughout their lives. 

“Everything we do at Cottage Cove is based on trying to give them something they can use in the world. Development is huge for us,” Marsha explains.  

Nutritious Meals and Support for Families 

One of the most critical aspects of Cottage Cove’s program is ensuring that children have access to nutritious meals. Thanks to Second Harvest’s Cook Chill kitchen, the kids at Cottage Cove enjoy meals that are carefully planned and balanced, providing the essential nutrients they need to grow up healthy. 

“Lunchtime is one of the most important times of the day at Cottage Cove. Kids eat meals prepared by Second Harvest’s Cook Chill kitchen, which are full of nutritious foods that kids need to grow up healthy,” Marsha shares. 

In addition to providing lunch, Cottage Cove also offers breakfast to the children, thanks to Second Harvest’s Market, an area where Partner Agencies can obtain surplus food from grocery stores and other local distributors. This additional meal helps children start their day right and stay energized. 

“Second Harvest allows us to not have to pass a food charge on to families and get kids a balanced, healthy meal. The market at Second Harvest lets us provide breakfast,” says Marsha. “It helps get them through the rest of the day.” 

Supporting Families 

Cottage Cove’s impact extends beyond the children to their families as well. Marsha acknowledges that programs with such robust curriculums as Cottage Cove are often very expensive, and the families that need them most can’t afford them. Second Harvest allows Cottage Cove to open their doors to more families. Many of the students come from homes with single parents who need reliable child care to be able to work. The reduced cost of Cottage Cove, made possible through partnerships with organizations like Second Harvest, has opened the facility to more families in need, allowed parents to work, and given young children a healthy place to learn, grow, and have fun. 

“Whenever a family comes to us with a need, whether it’s food or clothing, we try to help them,” Marsha explains. “Our reduced cost allows parents to work, knowing their children are being taken care of and provided a good healthy meal.” 

A Community Effort 

The Hunger Free Summer campaign and sites like Cottage Cove demonstrate the power of community effort in addressing child hunger. By providing not only food but also a supportive environment and educational opportunities, these programs are making a significant difference in the lives of children and their families. 

“We strive to help the kids have experiences they otherwise wouldn’t have. Kids eat well during the school year, and we want to make sure they do in the summer, too,” Marsha states. 

Through initiatives like these, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee is working tirelessly to ensure that no child has to face hunger, regardless of the season. 

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